Long Beach police recovered over 23,069 pounds of fireworks in the months leading up to this year’s 4th of July celebration, the highest number in at least five years.
In addition to seizing illegal fireworks, police also made a total of 38 arrests and issued 15 citations, according to a city press release. While the number of arrests is on par with the previous year, arrests have gone up significantly from a total of 23 in 2020.
Enforcement efforts don’t end at midnight on July 4 either, especially as a result of new penalties and investigative programs introduced by the city since last year.
In June 2020, the city prosecutor’s office created a portal where video and photo evidence can be submitted, that can be used to file criminal complaints against property owners.
On June 8 of this year, the City Council approved an amendment, allowing the city to charge the cost of city employees responding to fireworks calls, as well as any damages, to those lighting off fireworks, in addition to city fines, which were increased in mid-June to include the “actual cost of response.”
Those changes to the ordinance also added a “host liability” that could make it easier for the city to issue citations in the future because it will allow property owners, tenants, landlords, property managers and other individuals hosting fireworks events to be cited.
Previously, officers had to witness fireworks being set off for penalties to be issued. Now, the city attorney can issue citations to property owners if there’s enough evidence that fireworks were lit off on their property or on adjacent property by persons being hosted at their homes.
There is a provision, however, that allows property owners to report fireworks activity on their property without being punished.
This year, more than 273 complaints related to fireworks were reported via the city’s public portal, according to the city prosecutor’s office, more than half of which came in during the week leading up to and through July 4. So far, 14 cases have been identified as having sufficient detail to be investigated for prosecution, the prosecutor’s office said. Last year, only three out of 460 complaints provided sufficient evidence to prosecute, according to the city press release.
Per the new ordinance, reports may be considered for potential civil fines for the host of the property, if criminal prosecution is not possible.
The amount of fireworks seized by Long Beach police has surged in recent years.
In 2016, police seized 500 pounds, compared to this year’s 23,069 pounds. Last year marked an unusual drop in the amount of fireworks seized, with police reporting just 808 pounds recovered in what police consider peak firework season, the period between the start of Memorial Day weekend, and July 4. In 2019, police confiscated 14,231 pounds of illegal fireworks.
City officials have tried a number of approaches to reduce illegal fireworks activity in recent years. The City Council has funded public service announcements, explored the use of drones to monitor and map areas with high fireworks activity and offered free block-party permits to applicants who pledge to host a fireworks-free event.
This year, the city also created a map of hotspots for fireworks activity, which were identified using data collected from previous calls for service. According to city officials, the hotspot map was created to target specific neighborhoods for increased education and outreach, but also for increased patrols over the holiday weekend.
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